- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Nomination scheduled

Today is the day the Security Council will nominate Ban Ki-moon to become the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations.

From here, Mr. Ban’s name will go to the General Assembly, where, in all likelihood, he will receive a consensus or overwhelming vote of endorsement.

The South Korean minister of trade and foreign affairs has quietly built support in the council, overcoming competition from, among others, India, Jordan, Afghanistan and the Thai candidate endorsed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The process played out with little suspense and even less drama. All told, it has been a dignified affair.

That’s not to say that the selection process has been transparent, nor that Security Council members have been strongly influenced by the states they represent. All deliberations were conducted in private. There was no public forum for the candidates to answer questions. Repeated pleas for additional nominations — the council’s version of inclusiveness — drew lackluster responses from Asian governments.

Longtime U.N. official Shashi Tharoor of India deserves credit for telling and writing about his views, as does latecomer Ashraf Ghani, of Afghanistan, who tried to present complex proposals for systemic U.N. overhaul during his three-week candidacy.

Mr. Ban remains somewhat unknown. His light footprint and his reputation as a harmonizer could well be part of his allure after a decade of Kofi Annan’s charisma and clearly expressed stands on security and development.

Many U.N. departments have begun to ready their transitional briefings, which should make Mr. Ban’s administration the best-prepared in U.N. history. Mr. Annan took over the job in 1997 on less than two weeks’ notice. His predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, had scarcely more than a month.

Peacekeeping gets boost

With more than 93,000 soldiers, police and civilians in 18 missions and a budget of $4.6 billion, the U.N. peacekeeping department is bigger now than it has ever been. And its budget is to rise to about $6 billion, Jean-Marie Guehenno of France, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said last week.

Long-dormant peacekeeping missions in Lebanon and East Timor are expanding rapidly, and a long-planned deployment in Sudan could require an additional 68,000 people, Mr. Guehenno told reporters on Wednesday. All told, the department could deploy 140,000 people, including 70,000 soldiers, in the next few months.

The longtime peacekeeping chief said he wants a “dedicated cadre” of 2,500 professional staff members to provide stability and continuity in the department. Mr. Guehenno said he also would like more flexibility in rotating civilian staff through headquarters and into the field, to improve perennial vacancy and retention problems. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal to give the Secretariat more flexibility in staffing and rotations was shot down by the General Assembly’s budget and management committee.

At the behest of the Security Council, the U.N. peacekeeping department has expanded its terms of engagement from traditional peacekeeping (Cyprus, Ethiopia-Eritrea) to dangerous peace enforcement (Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to tricky “peace transitioning” (East Timor).

“Sometimes I am concerned about the political overstretch,” Mr. Guehenno told reporters. “How can the international community be focused at once to address so many important issues?”

But, he added gamely: “When I look at those figures — in some ways I see that as a vote of confidence in U.N. peacekeeping. I see that as also a good sign, in the sense that it means a number of conflicts are ending because you can’t have peacekeeping in the midst of a shooting war,” he added.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has refused to allow a thin effort by the African Union to be transformed into a larger and better-equipped U.N. blue-helmet operation. The U.S. military has not deployed significant numbers of soldiers to U.N. peacekeeping in more than a decade, but there are about 360 American civilian police officers participating in U.N. missions, mostly in Kosovo. In addition, Washington pays 27 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget this year.

• Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]washingtontimes.com

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